Theft of Controversial Art Work at University of Dallas

Rod Dreher takes note of a theft of a print from an art gallery at the University of Dallas. The student newspaper condemns the theft, and says the picture was controversial, but doesn’t say what the controversy was about–the print depicted the Virgin Mary, in the guise of Our Lady of Guadalupe, as a stripper. The University of Dallas is a Catholic institution with a conservative reputation.

Dreher says,

Theft is sinful, and a crime, and it’s right of President Frank Lazarus to condemn it. Still, does the UD administration have its priorities straight? A Catholic university hosting a work of art depicting the Virgin Mary as a hoochie who takes her clothes off for money is tolerable? Really? At the risk of being a horribly judgmental prude who imposes his troglodytic views on sexuality on people, I gotta say:


6 thoughts on “Theft of Controversial Art Work at University of Dallas

  1. An acquaintance of mine wrote a letter to the editor of the school newspaper calling for a public apology by the UD administration regarding the public display of the artwork. But as he has told me, the theft, aside from being wrong, has done more harm than good. Some teachers and other students are buying prints from the artist (a student at Murray St), the school is probably replacing it with another print, and the students who were upset now look uncultured and overzealous. Really a no-win situation.

  2. I say good for those who stole and (hopefully) destroyed the print. Everyone would understand if I stole a print done like that of, say, my wife or mother. Only those who do not believe Our Lady is also Our Mother would not be offended by this. Good for the thief and shame on Lazarus and the Art Department. They both should be dismissed.

  3. Absolutely ridiculous. It’s a university art department not a cathedral. Why wouldn’t such a work be displayed? What does it mean to be a Catholic University? Maybe it’s time that debate was had on campus – indeed, nationwide. In the philosophy department, they read and discuss Nietzsche, in the Biology department they read and discuss embryonic stem cell research, why wouldn’t the art department view and discuss similarly anti-Catholic material? If these things can’t be addressed in a Catholic university, where can they be addressed? And if they can’t be addressed, then we are just a bunch of Christo-Fascists. Read the Pope’s Regensburg speech. It’s about engaging the opposition in rational debate. It was so ironic when some Muslims reacted to that speech so irrationally. But some Catholic sound very much like those Muslims with regard to this offensive print. Catholic higher education is not indoctrination. And while so-called academic freedom has real limits, the school that touts itself as the Catholic University for Independent Thinkers should be able to provide the tools for young adults to confront schlock when they see it and condemn it in a rational way – in a way that makes sense to their non-Catholic peers, ie: the rest of the world, ie: the earth in which they are supposed to be the salt. Another way to pose this is: What is a most Catholic response that the students and faculty of a Catholic University can send back to Murray State University when it the exchange is completed?

    In my opinion, refusing outright to display the piece, under the circumstances in which it was received, or otherwise reacting purely out of indignation, is too akin to the certain lynching of a Danish cartoonist. Such a response would not evoke the rationality that Catholicism is at home with. Certainly, it should be driven out of the temple and there is a time and place for righteous anger. And certainly it is very offensive.

    AND in response to all those individuals invoking their dear mothers: if my mother were an internationally recognized figure (say she was a popular canonized saint), I shouldn’t be surprised to hear certain jerks malign her. And as tempting as it would be to simply cover my ears, in my heart I would prefer instead that those jerks come to know her as I do. And, as offensive as it is, I’d have to admit that in many cases that would mean hearing these jerks out. And so I think the right response would be to allow those pejoratives to be voiced in carefully controlled situations in which they could be summarily, and hopefully finally, dispelled. So again, I pose the question: What is a Catholic university? Is it a sanctuary from the world? Is it a seminary? No and No. The university is for lay education. Lay people are in and of the world. Can they be prepared to live their faith in and of the world – like the salt that improves the taste of the meal – if they don’t confront it – if they remain in the metaphorical shaker?

    A danger in starting out down the road of the perfunctory eschewing of the anti-Catholic in the world is that a lot of what we would at first condone, upon closer examination, isn’t so Catholic. For some perspective: Byzantine saints used to write vehemently against the Christian use of Greek philosophy because their experience of Greek thought was that it was born in paganism and that the Greeks were surrounded by demons. So I mean to ask, in eschewing the anti-Catholic from the university, where do we draw the line? What if the print had appeared to be a nice picture of the Virgin, only to find out it was created by a sociopath who molested little girls? I recall that Italian Renaissance painting is a favorite of UD students, but it’s predominately secular humanist. A print of the Birth of Venus probably would have received rave reviews from many students, but it’s decidedly un-Catholic. So where do you draw the line? This is not to say that you don’t draw any lines. It is to say that the issue is much more complicated than people seem to understand.

    Moreover, this whole issue is of special importance and needs to be discussed in light of the recent efforts of UN and EU legislators to amend the constitutions to make blasphemous publications illegal – unprotected by free speech. This is a big effort by many European and Asian Muslims to put an end to the type of cartoons that appeared in the infamous Danish newspaper – and to put a stop to any public social commentary on their religion. At some level, I imagine such an amendment appeals to many Christians as well. However, I believe it’s very disturbing. The beliefs of Islam, and ALL religions, SHOULD be subject to scrutiny. Let human reason and the Holy Spirit prevail. Silencing that debate before it starts seems to me to represent a fear and an exclusivity that is entirely unChristian. Again, there is a time for righteous anger. Just as there is a time for public debate. Scripture certainly gives us far more examples of Our Lord engaging in the latter.

  4. Interesting post Zeke with some good points…a contention however….

    “I recall that Italian Renaissance painting is a favorite of UD students, but it’s predominately secular humanist”

    I don’t quite think we can speak of secular humanists during the Renaissance. Humanism did not equal secularism at that point in time.

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